The Age of Ice: A Novel
J. M. Sidorova
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An epic debut novel about a lovelorn eighteenth-century Russian noble, cursed with longevity and an immunity to cold, whose quest for the truth behind his condition spans two thrilling centuries and a stunning array of historical events.
The Empress Anna Ioannovna has issued her latest eccentric order: construct a palace out of ice blocks. Inside its walls her slaves build a wedding chamber, a canopy bed on a dais, heavy drapes cascading to the floor—all made of ice. Sealed inside are a disgraced nobleman and a deformed female jester. On the empress’s command—for her entertainment—these two are to be married, the relationship consummated inside this frozen prison. In the morning, guards enter to find them half-dead. Nine months later, two boys are born.
Surrounded by servants and animals, Prince Alexander Velitzyn and his twin brother, Andrei, have an idyllic childhood on the family’s large country estate. But as they approach manhood, stark differences coalesce. Andrei is daring and ambitious; Alexander is tentative and adrift. One frigid winter night on the road between St. Petersburg and Moscow, as he flees his army post, Alexander comes to a horrifying revelation: his body is immune to cold.
J. M. Sidorova’s boldly original and genrebending novel takes readers from the grisly fields of the Napoleonic Wars to the blazing heat of Afghanistan, from the outer reaches of Siberia to the cacophonous streets of nineteenth-century Paris. The adventures of its protagonist, Prince Alexander Velitzyn—on a lifelong quest for the truth behind his strange physiology—will span three continents and two centuries and bring him into contact with an incredible range of real historical figures, from Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein, to the licentious Russian empress Elizaveta and Arctic explorer Joseph Billings.
The Age of Ice is one of the most enchanting and inventive debut novels of the year.
Finally I addressed him. “Is that what you did?” “No, sir. I never did any of what he says.” “Then why is he saying you did it?” “Because he’s mad at me because I don’t want to play war! Because he hurts me when I play war with him!” Mikhail shouted, “Liar! You never play war ’cause you want to play kings and servants and always want to be a king and tell me German cusswords!” “I never told you German cusswords! You cussed at me in Russian!” On the remote chance that Druka was actually
Frenchwoman for a wife. He was now overburdened by a harem, with the ensuing duties of disbursing allowances, pacifying or inducing factions, bribing and being bribed for favors. His idea of an enlightened pastime became to summon me at night and tell me—while sipping the rare and frowned-upon wine from Shiraz—anecdotes about his wives; he had nicknamed the two most scheming of them Russia and Britain. As in: “I am expecting Lady Britain to pay me a handsome subsidy. Now that she knows I
first ever exposure of the city of Herat to the full British regimentals. By telling a story or listening to it, you remained human. I told good stories. • • • No one ever interrogated me. In hindsight, I think that whoever put me in jail was saving me up. Perhaps Iqbal had dropped a word that I was an Ouruss, just in time, when the Persian shah had revoked the British authority to broker peace. I was assuming that Russians propped the Persian side, and Britons the Afghan side. But nothing
lonely, that’s all.” An utter truth, backed up by that genuine God help me look in my eyes. She saw it of course. “Well, I’m lonely too. In a house full of in-laws—” “I know I have a reputation. But it is not that of a seducer.” (She almost, but not quite, winced.) “Your husband has nothing to fear from me . . . Friends?” This time Anna made me wait. At long last she conceded, “Friends. On a condition that you stop talking to me as if I am your brother’s possession.” “Why, I never intended—”
best I could, which was not enough, “Yes. I am sorry I cannot explain it very well. But it is not a fancy. It is a necessity. Please, forgive me.” She gifted me with a strange, melancholy passion that night, and her eyes were as still as water that is about to freeze. • • • By then Ivan Kuznetzov no longer tutored in Anna’s school—she dismissed him. “He is a bad influence on the boys,” she said. Any gossip in St. Petersburg would have told her that I had never looked at another woman; by God,